Slayer - When The Stillness Comes
Slayer gave fans their first taste of the post-Hanneman era last year when they released "Implode", which was a solid late-era Slayer song. Now they're back with another new track, as they begin to ramp up towards the release of a new album. "When The Stillness Comes" confuses me on two levels. First, there's my opinion of the song. Listening to this track, there's very little to it. Kerry King provides the same basic clean intro that Slayer has done many times, but dragged on even longer than usual. Tom speaks the verses, with a decided lack of guitar, and even when the chorus kicks in, the riffing is so generic and boring that it isn't the least bit exciting. The song is, above all else, boring. Which brings me to the second point; how did Slayer and Nuclear Blast think this was the track to open the promotional storm that will surround the album? Slayer needs to prove they have any reason to exist anymore, and they put out what is essentially a ballad. Huh? Slayer needed to come out swinging with a heavy track that shows they can still do what they do best, and now we're going to be filled with more and more doubt until the record drops. I, for one, am not holding out hope.
Anthrax - Soror Irrumator
Of the Big Four, Anthrax is surprisingly the one on the most solid footing right now, creatively. "Worship Music" was their best record in a long time, and this song picks up right where that one left off. The riffs are the same patterns of chugging notes that really aren't all that exciting, but Joey Belladonna has found the fountain of youth, because he sounds fantastic here. His vocals, and that chorus, are what make this song. It was easy to write off his return to the band as being nostalgia, but Anthrax has definitely proven that they have some creative fire left unstoked. This song has me quite excited for the new album.
Armored Saint - Win Hands Down
Speaking of Anthrax, their former singer John Bush and his original band Armored Saint are back for their first album in five years, after the mildly disappointing "La Raza". Like that album, this first track is a mixture of traditional metal and a whole lot of 90s alternative rock, the very sound that made people turn against Anthrax while Bush was the singer. Bush's vocals are still strong, and the solos are interesting, but the core of the song itself just isn't that great. Bush has never been a great melody writer, and this is another one that is quite basic, and needed more help from the guitars. I imagine the album will follow suit, and not make much of an impact with me.
Helloween - Battle's Won
Despite the band being down on it, my favorite Helloween album has always been "The Dark Ride". Helloween has tried to modernize their sound with every album since Andi Deris joined them, but that was the only time is actually felt like something other than cookie-cutter Helloween. This track follows the same formula as the last few records, and doesn't offer anything in the way of a surprise. If anything, the similarity breeds contempt, because this is nowhere near as good as some of the tracks off the previous records. The chorus here doesn't feel uplifting and inspiring, the way it's supposed to, but rather tacked on from a more upbeat song from the band's past. It's disjointed, and the trite lyrics are poorly written, and drag a mediocre song even further down. I'm skipping this album.
Leprous - The Price
Despite Leprous' reputation as being one of the best new prog bands of the last few years, I have yet to get into anything they've done. Their last album, in particular, left me feeling cold and bored. They struck me as falling into that category of bands that are obviously talented, but can't write great songs. With this first taste of their new album, I might have to change my tune a bit. The basic template is the same here, but the song is much stronger than anything I've heard from them before. There are some truly odd time signatures on display, which are interesting, but the reason this song is better is due to the fact that they have finally written a vocal melody for the chorus that has some meat to it. If the rest of the album sounds like this, it has real possibilities.